Lynne Spalding
Lynne Spalding

SAN FRANCISCO -- The medical examiner has ruled out foul play in the death of 57-year-old Lynne Spalding, a missing San Francisco woman discovered in an exterior stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital after vanishing from her hospital bed nearly three weeks ago.

The circumstances surrounding Spalding's death are no longer considered suspicious, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office. A representative for the office confirmed the woman's identity late Wednesday evening.

Spalding's official cause of death remains unknown.

In a news conference at the hospital Thursday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the city's hiring of an independent consultant to conduct a "thorough, independent review" of security systems and protocols at San Francisco General Hospital, and vowed to leave "no stone unturned."

"This should not have happened, and we all agree, and we want to prevent it from happening again," Lee said.

There remain no answers from hospital officials or the San Francisco Sheriff's Department about how Spalding died and wound up in the rarely-used stairwell, or how thoroughly the hospital was searched after she disappeared. While hospital officials said they were committed to getting to the bottom of the incident, friends and family of Lynne Spalding continue to be dissatisfied with the lack of answers from the two agencies.

"We're not here to throw anyone under the bus -- we're here for answers," said family spokesman David Perry. "Lynne Spalding died alone in a stairwell, and her body was there for 17 days. And the fact is this -- San Francisco General did not issue their first statement about the disappearance of Lynne Spalding until 10 days after her disappearance."

The woman's boyfriend and daughter drove her to the hospital from her Mission District home after she began acting increasingly disoriented and lost a significant amount of weight, Perry said. Spalding, who had no pre-existing medical conditions, was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and hospitalized in a fifth-floor room, steps from the nurses station, for two days before she went missing.

An engineering staff member discovered Spalding's body in the rarely-used fire exit stairwell during what officials called "a routine quarterly check."

The family continues to demand answers about the hospital's search for Spalding, including information about the hospital's search protocols, and whether video cameras cover every entrance and exit of the hospital. The hospital initially said there was "no video evidence" of the woman leaving the hospital, but declined to answer questions about whether there were even cameras on the grounds.

"I think San Francisco General has a lot of explaining to do," said Jenny Rauh, Spalding's friend and former co-worker in the travel industry. "Instead of looking out there under the overpasses, we should have been looking at the hospital. She was right here. She turned up at the hospital where it's supposed to be safe. It's disgusting ... it's horrible."

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.